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How Timoti’s rags-to-riches tale started, ended in the village

Saturday Lounge Reflections

Isdore Guvamombe

Back in the village in the proverbial land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, the sun reluctantly rose from mother earth, its silhouette rays colouring the village with a golden hue.

In the village, the arrival of a haulage truck — a huge monster of a vehicle that hisses, puffs, hushes and hobbles — is a rare spectacle
In the village, the arrival of a haulage truck — a huge monster of a vehicle that hisses, puffs, hushes and hobbles — is a rare spectacle.

Smoke filtered through the dark grey thatches of kitchens, immediately disappearing into the skies. The village was alive! The morning was fresh from last night’s heavy rains.

An atypical fragrance of wet soil wafted in circles as beetles and ants came out in full force, probably to find new footing.

Herd boys shook off the lethargy of sleep and grudgingly drove cattle, sheep and goats into the grazing pans.

Women and teenage girls criss-crossed a network of village paths — to the river, to the bush toilet or to the well and little everywhere else — obviously for different chores, while young girls opened coops for the chickens to freely roam about everywhere. Village chickens are known to celebrate their daily release with darting runs, chortles, sniggers and titters. Crackling!

Immediately the chickens started picking up worms, grasshoppers, ants and crickets and little everything else.

The huge cock, seemingly deprived by the long night, was on a prowl, leaving no hen untouched as if to compensate for lost time. It is never tired and the hens seemed to like him more. One by one the cock mounted.

As the sun rose imperceptibly, the village was stunned by the arrival of a haulage truck — a huge monster of a vehicle that hissed, puffed, hushed and hobbled. Boys and girls abandoned their chores to see the rare spectacle.

“It’s a hoshikoshi, it’s a hoshikioshi . . . ! (Oshkosh).

It was a rare spectacle. Boys forgot about the cattle and they strayed into fields.

At the centre of the village stood a Muchakata tree, in its typical fashion of being a loner in grasslands, especially on sandy soil where there is a high water table.

It was a large evergreen, whose canopy spread to give it a mushroom shape, look. Its bark was dark grey. The fruits, about the size of a plum were born in profusion from January to March. Being February, the fruits were growing up and dangling from each branch.

Boys liked the fruits. Their biggest competitors were the donkeys, cattle and goats. Grass never grew underneath this tree because of how it was frequented by people and livestock. Its huge canopy too, starved whatever wanted to grow of sunlight.

The fruits are edible and when ripe, the yellow flesh was delicious, though a little dry they taste better. The fruit formed a very important part of the diet of the village and it was greatly valued.

So, the beautiful, shady tree formed a conspicuous feature of the village landscape.

Juxtaposed with this huge Muchakata tree, the truck stopped. Puffed! Hissed and puffed. Its air brakes released a final huge fart that blew the sand from the ground and shook the villagers’ garments.

A man alighted, wearing sunglasses, a body top and a three-quarter denim shot. His industrial shoes shone like a traditional healer’s looking glass.

It was Timoti, the village boy who had spent most of his time working for the white man in then Salisbury (Harare). He had been so trusted by the white man that they took him to driving school and turned him from garden boy to truck driver.

It was a rags-to-riches story.

After the greeting formalities, Timoti offloaded groceries for his parents and gave a few goodies to relatives, typical of village ethos. He was en route to DRC via Zambia, but had decided to pass through the village.

The village was 100km off route.

Tagged to the trailer was a tanker and no villager could guess what it contained. There were whispers from those enlightened villagers that even Timoti himself did not know what he was carrying, prompting some villagers to joke alongside the Zuze letter story. Zuze carried a letter he could not read, yet it ridiculed him. It was famous and must-read Rhodesian primary school story.

After an hour or so, it was Timoti’s time to leave. He started the huge engine and it answered with a huge groggy voice and puff. Then another puff. Thereafter, the haulage truck hissed. His window wound down, Timoti waved farewell, but the truck got stuck.

The wheel rolled on one spot, splashing mud all over. He tried every trick; it got stuck further. Villagers tried to push, but the monster could not move. It was too huge.

They tried pulling with donkeys and oxen, but failed. Then it was donkeys, oxen and villagers. They failed. It got stuck further.

Those from the next village came. They tried every trick, but the truck was now in a mud rut. One clever villager ran across the river to seek the assistance of the white farmer across Dande River.

There, the white farmer came on a motorbike. He asked a few questions to Timoti and with a fooling smile told Timoti to hold on until he brought his tractors to rescue him. Hours went past and the white man did not come. Seconds turned into minutes and minutes into hours until everyone else dispersed except the few very interested ones.

Two hours later, the owner of JB Trucks, Mr James Brown, himself pitched up, with the white farmer in guide. The white farmer had phoned him in Harare to report that his driver had diverted from the route and got stuck.

Mr Brown fumed and punched the air and kicked the vehicle wheels, calling for Timoti, but he was nowhere to be seen. The moment he saw Mr Brown, Timoti sneaked into a maize field and ran for dear life. That was the end of his job. That was indeed the last time Mr Brown saw him. The Herald